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Talking openly about vaginal prolapse

Five years ago during an annual exam by my gynecologist, my doctor told me I had vaginal prolapse and should go to the University of Michigan Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital for a consultation. I wasn’t experiencing any symptoms and hoped that living a healthy life and exercising would control the situation. Three years ago, I started to experience some symptoms, but they weren’t bad, so I continued with positive thinking and a healthy lifestyle. I did not want to interrupt my workout routine with surgery. I work out six or seven days a week taking a weight-lifting class, doing Pilates and walking.

By April 2013, I knew I had let it go on too long. I made an appointment with Dr. Megan Schimpf in U-M’s Pelvic Floor Program. We immediately hit it off and she addressed all my reservations about the surgery. By that time, I was so uncomfortable. I had a pulling sensation in my groin and my vagina was protruding from my body. I was also experiencing bowel trouble and had difficulty fully emptying my bladder. These weren’t the kind of symptoms people chat about casually, so I kept my issues private and leaned on my husband, son and sister for support.

Because prolapse can sometimes affect multiple pelvic organs,  I had multiple procedures at once to treat everything. Dr. Schimpf carefully explained to me and my family what she was going to do, the risks, what to expect and what my recovery would be like. Everyone in her office and at the U-M were fabulous. They kept me informed and answered every question I had in terms that I could understand.

The day of my surgery, Oct. 8, it was delayed a few hours. Everyone at the hospital kept me informed and although I was hungry, thirsty and eager for the surgery to be over, I knew the delay meant that the person before me needed the extra care and time in surgery and I was grateful that I knew I’d receive the same attention.

My surgery was complicated, but successful. Dr. Schimpf worked on my vagina, bladder, bowel and small intestine. Despite the extensiveness of the surgery, I felt relief immediately. Even as soon as a month after my surgery, I thought recovery was going well. I slowly returned to some activities. I could take slow walks at that time and then returned to some weight lifting and Pilates classes a few months later. I spent the winter in Florida and am still really happy with my decision to have surgery. I think it was a miracle for me.

Vaginal prolapse is not the kind of condition many people talk about, so it can feel isolating. After my experience and the successful surgery, I decided to open up the lines of communication and start talking about my experience. There’s no reason to suffer in silence and it’s helpful to connect with others who share similar experiences. I recommend Dr. Schimpf and the U-M to anyone who asks. I got the best care there and am thrilled to be on the road to recovery.

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Carol Chirillo is an active 70-year-old who splits her time living in Woodhaven, Mich. and Sun City Center, Fla. She loves Body Pump (her weight-lifting class) and taking Pilates with her sister. She and her husband have one son who is married and the father of Carol’s precious grandchildren.

university of michigan women's hospitalThe University of Michigan’s Women’s Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital is a leader women’s health care.  Consistently ranked among the America’s top gynecology programs by U.S. News & World Report, U-M is committed to unsurpassed patient care for women.